The Sicilians are here! — Priya Bala
The world is sitting up and taking note of the wines from this Mediterranean island
If you think ‘The Godfather’, when you hear anyone say Sicily, then the little island at the tip of the Italian boot, will surprise you with its real treasures. I, for one, came away with a whole new idea about its wines after a recent interaction with members of the Sicilian Institute for Wine and Olive Oil who were in town.
Susan Hulme, a Master of Wine —apparently, there are only some 200 of these knowledgeable souls around — led us through a professional tasting, first dwelling on what sets Sicilian wine apart from, say, its more famous Italian equivalents. According to the expert, in a world awash with Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, the indigenous grape varieties of Sicily make wines that are remarkable on account of their individuality and attitude. Grapes native to Sicily, many of them dating back hundreds of years, include Frappato, Nerello Mascalese, Nero d’Avola.
These grapes acquire their characteristics from the terroir, and this varies immensely in Sicily – from the coastal areas cooled by sea breezes all the way up to the foothills of Etna with its lava-rich soil. It is this vastly varying terroir and weather that creates grapes and, from them, wines with such different personalities. The sharp diurnal differences in temperature on this Mediterranean isle help to create white wines which keep their acidity and allow the reds develop their tannins, which is always a good thing.
At the master class organized by the Sicilian team and the Indian Wine Academy we had a taste of these wines with strong personality and unique character. There was the Ottoventi Zibibbo from Western Sicily — dry and aromatic with a nose of honey and flowers; the Benanti Rovittello with hints of vanilla and the Valle dell’Acate Frappato, bursting with berry notes and light, but persistent on the palate.
The two olive oils we tasted were splendid, too – green and gold and huge on aroma and flavour.
So, the next time you’re looking for a new wine, you might consider a Sicilian. It’s perfect for when, perhaps, a Bordeaux seems overwhelming. By the way, I had the privilege of a meeting with Bordeaux royalty recently. But that is a story for another day.
Priya Bala is a noted food critic, writer, cook and an enthusiast.